Several recently hired public safety officers, including a new fire chief and police corporal, were introduced to the Lompoc community during Tuesday night’s meeting of the Lompoc City Council.
New Lompoc Fire Chief Gerald Kuras and Police Cpl. Brian Guerra were sworn into office during separate pinning ceremonies at the start of the meeting, and Lompoc Police Chief Pat Walsh also shared information about five other recent hires within his department.
“We are just thrilled to have you as part of our community,” Lompoc City Manager Patrick Wiemiller said to Kuras just before inviting him up to speak.
Kuras, who replaces the recently retired Kurt Latipow, took his oath and had his badge pinned to him by his wife Julie. He was joined by several other family members for the ceremony.
“I just can’t tell you how humbled I feel and proud,” he said.
Kuras had retired as a battalion chief in 2011 after more than 36 years of service with Santa Barbara County Fire. He said he was looking forward to sharing his knowledge with the Lompoc Fire Department’s current personnel, whom he described Tuesday as “totally awesome.”
“They are some of the best firefighters I’ve ever met — that’s really what pulled me out of retirement,” he said.
Wiemiller noted that he heard only positive things about Kuras during the city’s background research process and said he was excited to have Kuras on board. Wiemiller also thanked Battalion Chief Mark Bray, who had served as the city’s interim fire chief since Latipow’s departure in May.
Walsh had similar praise for Guerra, who had served as a gang detective, investigative detective and patrol officer with the Lompoc Police Department since 2009. Guerra, a Lompoc native and 1997 graduate of Lompoc High School, had also been a member of the department’s SWAT team and served as a field instructor.
Before joining the LPD, Guerra worked as a corrections officer with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office.
Guerra was joined by his family as he was sworn in and had his badge pinned to his uniform by his young son.
Walsh also introduced newly hired police officer Josh Hernandez, dispatch personnel Amanda Sheffield and Shelby Traynor, and jailers Martin Willis and Emery Knotts.
Hernandez, Walsh said, is a Santa Maria native who graduated from Righetti High School and the Hancock College law enforcement academy. He noted that Knotts, who previously worked security at the Chumash Casino and Marian Hospital, and Sheffield are also from Santa Maria and pointed out that “usually it’s the other way around” with Lompoc personnel going north.
Traynor, Walsh said, is beginning a law enforcement career after 10 years in the dental industry, and Willis, whom he said is from Sacramento, had participated in a sheriff’s explorers program as a child and moved to Lompoc last year to be closer to family.
“I think it’s important for the community to know who’s working for them,” Walsh said.